We are starting a new unit for both Grade 6 and 7 ESOL, which involves learning about Martin Luther King’s contribution to Civil Rights in the U.S. during the 1960′s. I have divided the unit into two parts.
Part 1: Introduce Unit with theme song, “Lean on Me.” Discuss the theme/central idea. Review key vocabulary, journal and writing activities (apply theme to their lives).
Part 2: Read Reading A-Z book “Martin Luther King Jr.” Use the reading strategy of summarizing to understand text, understand and identify cause-and-effect relationships, identify and recognize prefixes/suffixes/base form through the use of sticky note strategies (leaving marks in our book).
We have just wrapped up with Part 1 of this unit, and I would like to share one the journal activities my ESOL students completed. Students completed their journal entries on Schoology, which is an online collaborative interface where students can access lessons, share journals, make comments to each other, etc.
Students were asked to reflect on the song “Lean on Me” in which Bill Withers sings “Sometimes in our lives we all have pain. We all have sorrow, but if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow.” Based on this message, I asked students to hone in on the topic of adversity in their writing, which was the key word for the unit. I asked students to journal about a time when they had adversity, pain, or sorrow in their own lives. Students were asked to share what they did to be “wise” or to fix the problem.
Student’s journal responses were written on Schoology. Their stories were powerful and very personal. Schoology interface allows the entire class to access the writing/journaling of other classmates, they can read what each other say and respond (just as you would on FaceBook). A couple of my students shared stories related to immigrating to the United States; stories which involved poignant examples of adversity. In addition, several students shared stories about death and how they felt.
Using this topic of “adversity” was a wonderful way to share about painful experiences and to hear student’s voices. This provided a venue which allowed me to teach my students how they can demonstrate “empathy.” As we all know, empathy is a learned behavior, an unknown skill set if they do not learn it at home. For this reason, I felt it important to give students pointers on how they can be empathetic. I went through the different ways they could show empathy to each other.
Following were some of the pointers I provided students in order to create empathetic responses.
- Repeat something that someone has said or shared or ask a question. This shows empathy because it shows that we were truly listening.
- Give a compliment to the person or say thank you for sharing. This shows empathy because we are reinforcing the fact that we appreciate that the person shared.
- Give advise. This show empathy because it shows that you truly care about this person and that we want to help.
- Say something nice and reassuring. This shows empathy because we are trying to comfort someone, again showing that we care.
I was so impressed by several of my students responses to each other on Schoology. Here are a couple student responses to a journal entry in which one of my students shared about her dog dying.
- “Awwww so sad because your dog was everything for you Did you get another dog after Monkey died? What kind of dog was it?
- “How did your dog got stuck in your door? Did your dog want to get inside of your house. I’ll find a way to help you.”
Here’s a student working on her “empathetic response” to a student entry. Overall, Part 1 of our “Martin Luther King; Civil Rights” unit has been a wonderful way for students to make personal connections to the subject of adversity. I found that Schoology was a wonderful platform and way in which students could share and empathize with each other!!!